trustees' week 2011 > challenge results

trustees' week 2011 challenge results!

Last week, to celebrate Trustees' Week 2011, we set three challenges to get trustees' celebrating and improving their trustee board.

After much deliberation we've selected three individual category winners and one overall winner. Our four winners will be the worthy recipients of training course vouchers from charity recruiters TPP Not for Profit* and the Directory of Social Change**
TPP Not for Profit logo and link to website This is an image of the DSC logo. Click it to visit their website 

The winners are:

Category 1 Celebration Prize - Farleigh Hospice

Category 2 Governance Improvement Prize - 1st Cheddington Scout Group

Category 3 Gearing up for Recruitment Prize - St Wilfrid's Hospice Chicester

Overall Winner - Womankind Worldwide

(Click on the links above to read the winning entries)

category 1 - celebration

The Celebration Prize Winner is Farleigh Hospice awarded for thanking each of their trustees with a personal card and for trustee Jeff Slater's submission for our Trustee of the Week page. Well done Janet Doghan and Jeff Slater!

1. First of all, about you: What attracted you to becoming a trustee/chair?

I retired in 2008 after just over 42 years in the NHS working as a Biochemist with the last 10 years or so as a Head of very busy department. Having acquired both management and governance experience I felt strongly that it would be a shame to waste such hard-earned experience and also realised I still wanted to work in a healthcare environment. I came across an advertisement for a Trustee position in our local Hospice, did some information digging and thought that the role may well be what I was looking for. An encouraging telephone call from the Chief Executive was also instrumental in me applying for the post.

2. Which organisation(s) do you represent?

Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford which provides adult palliative care for the Mid-Essex community.

3. What particularly attracted you to these organisation(s)?

Farleigh is well known within the community and has a strong brand image throughout Mid-Essex for providing caring care of an exceptional standard. Whilst in the NHS I had always been scientifically interested in screening for cancer and how the laboratory can help in cancer management but felt that the service delivery of palliative NHS was perhaps not as good as it could be. I also had an interest in clinical governance.

4. Is there anything that would make you an even more effective trustee/chair?

One does not become an effective contributing Trustee overnight. A Trustee should not automatically think that their previous experience can be seamlessly transfered to a charitable organisation. I guess what I'm saying is allow myself time to assimilate into how the organisation works particularly if it is a well-run organsiation (which ours is) and find ways of incrementally increasing your contribution - you don't need to make an instantl effect, grow into the role.

5. What's the biggest challenge you have faced in your role?

Understanding how the Hospice works, standing back from management, being objective to allow an appropriate degree of detachment.

6. What do you consider to be the most satisfying aspect of your role?

Feeling that I'm beginning to make a difference with how the Hospice approaches governance - not that there was anything very much wrong with it in the first place. Observing the committment of the clinical staff, the pleasure that support staff take in working for the organisation and seeing how this translates into quite exceptional care for patients and their carers. Acting as an advocate for the Hospice..

7. Do you think there is enough general recognition of the value of the trustee/chair role?

Within the Hospice at Senior Management level - yes The rest of the organisation - less so, certain roles are very appreciative. I don't think its important that everyone has a clear understanding of the role of the Trustee. General public - possibly associate the name as signfiying importance but again I don't think that it matters if they don't understand the role.

8. (If you have been a trustee/chair for some time) have you felt that the demands made on trustees/chairs have grown over time?

Yes, but I'm quiet happy with that currently. Being retired I'm fortunate to have the time to give to Farleigh

9. What do you think is the ideal term of office that a trustee/chair could serve?

Probably five years or until enthusiasm, physical and mental ability declines to the point when the role becomes a burden or he/she/Chair recognises they are not contributing.

10. What tip would you give to a new trustee/chair?

Go for it!

11. If you weren't a trustee/chair, what would you do with that extra time?

Possibly as a volunteer at Farleigh in some capacity.

12. What steps do you take to increase/retain your organisation's membership?

I sit on the Members Steering Group and we are currently embarking on the process to recruit into vacant Trustee positions. I try and act as an advocate for Farleigh when the opportunty presents itself to encourage friends etc to visit Farleigh, to engage in fundraising events etc

13. What question do you want to ask next week's trustee?

I would wish to know why they wanted to become a Trustee, their particular skills and experience and what they knew already about Farleigh.

category 2 - governance improvement

The Governance Improvement Prize Winner is 1st Cheddington Scout Group for following the principles of good governance.  They demonstrated that they understand their role, are ensuring resources are used to deliver organisational purpose, have worked effectively as a team, are exercising control and assessing risk, are behaving with integrity and being open and accountable – well done!

I have been working on producing a number of policies to define our agreed positions with regard to key questions. This week we have been able to agree on a reserves policy (for the first time) based on 6 months turn-over, and a benevolence policy to define how we will help families who are unable to pay membership fees and pay for events. I think the reserves policy will allow us to free up some of the money that the previous trustee board (changed September) had been holding on to, allowing the children access to new equipment and materials.  It will also allow us to embark upon a large fundraising project to replace the current building with a new community provision. The benevolence policy will give the local manager the authority to speak to families who are suffering financially and come to agreements with them about how much they will contribute to membership fees. This has already allowed one girl to remain a member of the Group following severe financial hardship.

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category 3 - gearing up for recruitment

The Gearing up for Recruitment Prize Winner is St Wilfrid's Hospice Chicester for designing and implementing a skills audit of their whole governance board, including sub-committees. This has helped them better identify what skills and experience they should be looking for in their upcoming round of recruitment. Well done to you all!

Our HR Committee has recently designed and implemented a Trustee Skills Audit, which all Trustees have completed. It identifies a high level of skill, some knowledge/expertise or no knowledge at all. We have just reviewed the Skills Audit alongside Sub-Committee membership and now we can see where Sub-Committees are lacking specific expertise as well as the Board as a whole. It has been invaluable in helping us to identify what we are looking for in the latest round of Trustee recruitment. It has also helped us to see where we have unused skills among our Trustees.The skill audit has already made a difference in the way we approach recruitment and Sub-Committee membership.

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overall winner

Womankind Worldwide for trustee Kate Rutherford's fantastic story of her experiences as a trustee and recent trip to Zimbabwe to see the work of Womankind in action.

Read more about her experiences and charity below.

I have been a trustee of Womankind Worldwide for almost five years. During that time I have been involved in organisational restructuring, the formation of strategy, major fundraising initiatives and critical financial decision-making. In a way it has been a condensed version of my previous private sector business life. But recently, thanks to the legacy of a former trustee, I was able to travel to Zimbabwe to see our work in action. The visit had a profound effect on me in several ways.

I travelled with two colleagues from Womankind to meet with some of our local partners delivering social change to women in Zimbabwe: ZWLA - Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association and Musasa. In a country where harmful traditional practices include polygamy, child brides, inherited wives and endemic domestic violence, ZWLA’s two key goals are to provide access to justice for women and to transform the justice system to recognise and honour the rights of women in Zimbabwe. Their work has helped thousands of women and children escape domestic violence. It has educated hundreds of traditional leaders, religious leaders and community influencers to understand, support and advocate women's rights. And it is currently helping to embed equality in the slowly emerging, new constitution of Zimbabwe.

I spend part of my week in Zimbabwe travelling with one of ZWLA's lawyers to the mobile legal aid clinic and listening first-hand to the stories of the women queuing to get legal counsel. I hear the common themes of traditional marriages leaving the women legally unprotected in the face of divorce or the introduction of a younger second wife. I hear many accounts of physical abuse and abandonment and of women struggling to support their children without alimony or maintenance payments. I watch our ZWLA lawyer provide calm advice, taking the emotion, anger and fear out of each case and replacing it with a structured process for accessing justice.

Our partner Musasa has led the way in lobbying for the introduction of the Domestic Violence Act and in providing safe haven for the survivors of violence who are still in physical danger and life-threatening situations. Musasa provides the necessities of food, shelter and medication but even more importantly they provide safety, counselling and emotional care. In the past year they have cared for over 70 women and 60 children. The survivors have experienced rape, attacks with axes and machetes, serial abuse and severe many cases at the hand of a husband or male relative.

I spend time with Musasa visiting the safe house and meeting some of the women and girls currently seeking refuge there. I meet Nolin, 17 years old, raped by her uncle when she was still a child, infected with HIV and now diagnosed with an HIV related cancer. Nolin is a bright teenager, articulate and self-assured. She has 6 O-levels and dreams of becoming a dress designer. When she came to Musasa she had been disowned by her parents because of her HIV status and the purported disgrace she has brought on her family by disclosing her status. Nolin has been given safe haven by Musasa. She is receiving chemotherapy at a local hospital and is attending a local clinic every other day for HIV treatment. I meet Tamary, an orphan abused and treated as a slave by the aunt who has taken her in. Pregnant at an early age she was abandoned by the man and left unmarried and homeless. Taken in off the streets by Musasa she is expecting her baby in the next month. Tamary intends to call her child “Blessing” in recognition of the help she has received from Musasa and her newfound belief in her ability to turn her life around.

So I leave Zimbabwe having witnessed a tiny part of how Womankind and our partners change lives and I reflect on what difference it will make to me as a trustee doing my job. Firstly I believe one of the difficulties for any trustee is getting close to the work. We meet six, seven, eight times a year and our focus should be strategic not operational. By definition that makes it a challenge to experience the daily life of our charity and to build the relationships we are used to holding in normal full-time engagement. I believe that spending one week in the company of one of our programme managers, meeting our partners in their setting and experiencing the daily challenges of their working life has better equipped me to make the right decisions when sitting around the committee or board table.

Secondly another of my responsibilities as a trustee is to be an ambassador for my charity; to be able to explain with passion what we do and why we do it. The audience might be one major donor or it might be a potential corporate sponsor; my role is to persuade them to support Womankind as opposed to another equally worthy cause. I believe the time spent meeting our partners and beneficiaries, hearing their stories in their context, has enabled me to retell with real conviction and evidence. I hope it has made me a fundraising force to be reckoned with!

Finally I had a chance to meet with some of our partners' trustees. We spent an afternoon swapping stories and sharing information about our respective challenges. At the end of our time together we discussed how valuable the time had been and how sensible it would be to stay in touch in the future.  Our programme managers talk all the time; our CEOs talk, email and meet whenever they can - but the trustees - we had never met before! There was unanimous support for continuing our newly established relationship and so we have formed an email group to share information as required.

My trip was financed through a legacy specifically dedicated to trustee travel. At Womankind we are looking at other ways to finance trips without taking funding away from our beneficiaries - because for me there is no doubt in the value of the experience.

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*TPP Not for Profit

TPP Not for Profit is a specialist consultancy dedicated to meeting the recruitment needs of not for profit organisations.  All our consultants are specialists, with the experience, sector knowledge and shared values and principles required to be able to offer the best advice and service to our clients.  TPP’s divisions cover the full breadth of charity roles.

The Senior Appointments team recruit senior professionals to interim, contract and permanent appointments across all disciplines.  We have an excellent track record of successfully sourcing and placing Chief Executives, Directors and Trustees to a wide variety of not for profit clients, both national and international.  The team is headed up by Rob Hayter, who is also Chair of Trustees for the National Childbirth Trust.

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**Directory of Social Change

Directory of Social Change (DSC) is an independent charity with a vision of an independent voluntary sector at the heart of social change.

We achieve this by providing essential information and training to the voluntary sector to enable charities to achieve their mission.

Since we started in 1974, we have been running courses and publishing charity and voluntary sector books on fundraising, management, organisational and personal development, communication, finance and law.

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